Rescue to Rescue
Exordium: The women went to the tomb expecting to see a dead Jesus. They went to the tomb with mournful mood, to anoint the lifeless body of Jesus with spices. If there was no surprise for those women that Easter morning, we, too, would have reason to remain in mournful mood today and every day. And there would be nothing for you here today. It would be pointless to be here. But Christ is indeed risen! The women saw Him. The disciples saw Him. 500 at one time saw the Lord alive. They touched his body. They spoke with Him. They ate with Him. Christ is our living Savior! Thus the early church began gathering. There was reason to gather, because Christ lives, and there is salvation from sin, death, and hell. They met on Sunday, the day of our Lord’s resurrection. And so we gather here today, and each Lord’s day… with mourning, not over the death of our Lord, but over our sin. But also with great joy, because our Lord lives, and He is with us, and His resurrection confirms the saving gospel message He has for you: You are forgiven! You are delivered from death! Jesus lives! Alleluia! With joy we sing the exordium hymn.., He Is Risen Glorious Word.
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
NKJ Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly.
2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.
3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
4 Then I said,`I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.
7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.
8 “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”
10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear heirs of Christ’s resurrection,
Our reading from Jonah sure gives a graphic picture of what happened to Jonah. The fish vomited Jonah from its belly on the third day. It was the Word of God that caused this to happen. “The LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” God speaks His mighty Word, and the fish has no choice, but must give up the contents of its belly.
Jesus used Jonah’s expulsion from the belly of the fish as a type of His resurrection from the dead. Jesus was preaching law to the Pharisees for their empty words and the fruits of their unbelief. Rather than repent, they rebelled against Christ, resented Jesus for speaking authoritatively. And in hatred challenged Jesus to back up His words with a sign. Jesus said that He will only give them the sign of Jonah. On the third day, He would be vomited from the belly of death.
Though Jesus connects His resurrection to Jonah’s return from the pit of the beast, there is a big difference. Jesus has power over death. Jonah did not.
We definitely see the helplessness of Jonah in his words that were recorded for us. Jonah knew what he had done. God had ordered Jonah to go to a foreign nation and preach the Word. Jonah was not willing. He went the opposite direction, hopped a ship and ran from God.
But as Jonah was running from God, God would not allow Jonah to remain separated from Him. The way that God restored Jonah to Himself was by first sending a storm that terrified the sailors of the ship. Jonah was convicted. He knew he was the reason for the storm. Jonah told them to cast him into the sea in order to be spared of the storm. They had no other options, and so they did. The storm calmed, and Jonah was sinking down in the depths of the sea.
And here are the thoughts of a drowning man who knew his guilt, and God’s judgment. Jonah said, “You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.”
God casted him in. The billows were sent by God. The waves that crashed down upon Jonah were God’s waves. It was God’s law that crushed Jonah. He knew his guilt. And we know our own. That is why we are here. We have run from God’s will which is written down for us in the Commandments. With our hands, our mouths, our eyes, our minds, and our hearts which God has made to do His will, we have sinned. We have run from Him to go our own way, obey our sinful desires, and to justify it with our mind.
We think of our sins, and the Law convicts us, and we see ourselves sink down beneath God’s righteous frown. We are crushed with guilt, and the law gives us no wiggle room to breathe. We have sinned. And when we think of the sicknesses, bad days, the loss of one sort or another that we have encountered in our lives, and all the trouble that we have gone through and all the trouble which is yet to come in our lives and we think, “I deserve this.”
We are helpless. We acknowledge our sins, which we ought to do, but that doesn’t help. We wallow in our guilt, and that doesn’t change a thing. No man, no works, no medicine, nothing we can do or produce can help. To use the words of helpless Jonah, “I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” Jonah tried to run away, but now he is trapped under the guilt of his sin. It was as though Jonah was in his tomb to face the consequences of his sin. So also, our guilt has bound us to our own tomb, and the eternal payment for our sins.
Jonah was helpless, but wasn’t hopeless, for there was life there in the pit. There was life in the belly of the fish. “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple.” This is a miracle wrought by God. For Jonah was running away. But the Lord did not abandon him. The Lord was after him. It was the Lord’s waves, the Lord’s billows, the Lord’s law that caused Jonah to see that he couldn’t run, but the Lord brought to remembrance in Jonah’s mind His mercy. The LORD is the only help to deliver him from the waters and from belly of the fish. The LORD is the only help to deliver him from sins and death.
The Lord came after Jonah and He comes after you with His grace and salvation, because He abandoned His Son on the cross. Jesus sank down beneath God’s righteous frown in our place. The waves of the law and the Father’s wrath crashed down on Jesus for us. None would save Him from the depths. The sinless one suffered the sinners death for us, so that God’s face may shine upon you with His grace and favor.
Of course that is not the end of it. If Jesus remained in the belly of the earth, it would have all been for naught. We would have nothing. But as the fish vomited up Jonah because of the Word that God spoke to the fish, death vomited up Christ, because of the divine might of the Word made flesh. Death could not hold Him. Jonah was helpless, but Jesus was not. He gave up His life, but He had authority to take it up again.
Jesus rose! He is alive! So we have hope! Run no longer, for Christ is risen! He is your help and salvation. He comes after you, bringing you into the richness of life with Him through baptism, nourishing you with His Spirit through His Word, and having communion with you through His Holy Supper.
Breathe easy and be at peace. Jesus, your Savior lives, and you have eternal life in Him. He has paid the price for your every sin. He has sunk every last one of them to the depths of the sea. He loves you and you are His. Nothing can separate you from His love, not the deepest depths of the sea, not the gravest of sins, not death. And there is no need to fear the belly of death, because its broken. There is a big hole there from when Jesus burst through its impenetrable walls. And we shall rise too from that hole when our Lord comes again to raise us to glory.
Thanks be to our risen Savior! Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.